Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEWARK, N.J. — The season is officially over for the Elizabeth (N.J) St. Patrick basketball team.
Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh on Monday denied St. Patrick’s an injunction to overturn the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s decision to ban the Celtics from the state tournament.
“The court finds that their [constitutional rights] were not [violated] and plaintiff’s application for injunctive relief is denied,” Judge Cavanaugh said shortly after 11 a.m. in Court Room 4 of the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building and Courthouse.
The defending New Jersey Tournament of Champions winner, St. Patrick (26-3) was hoping to get an injunction in order to play in the North Non-Public B bracket, beginning Tuesday.
St. Patrick also cannot compete in the ESPN Rise High School national invitational in early April.
“The kids were looking forward to having a chance to compete in the state tournament and they’ll be very disappointed but these kids have accomplished a lot. They’re very proud of themselves, they’re great friends and they’ll move on,” a disappointed St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle said.
St. Patrick was banned from the tournament Feb. 12 after the NJSIAA Executive Committee ruled thatBoyle had conducted six out-of-season workouts last October. Boyle admitted to being present for the workouts.
Larry White, associate commissioner of the NJSIAA, had drawn up a bracket featuring St. Patrick as the No. 2 seed and St. Anthony as the No. 3 had the injunction been granted. Those two teams could have met in the semifinals.
Instead, Paterson Catholic remains the top seed and St. Anthony is the No. 2. Should those two teams meet March 11 in the sectional final at Rutgers, the winner will likely be the favorite to win the T of C.
The Celtics played what turned out to be their final game of the season Saturday, when they beat Plainfield, 82-45, for the Union County championship at Kean College.
The St. Patrick lawsuit alleges that the NJSIAA violated the school’s “fundamental constitutional and civil rights, including its right to procedural due process. Specifically, in addition to violating Plaintiff’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and its First and Fourteenth Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, the NJSIAA also violated Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process.”
Kevin Marino, the attorney for St. Patrick, spoke for 54 minutes before Judge Cavanaugh. The core of his argument was that Patrick J. Reilly, the NJSIAA’s private investigator and a retired New Jersey state police captain, violated St. Patrick’s rights to due process and unlawful search and seizure by entering school grounds under false pretenses and videotaping high school players while trying to determine if the basketball-playing brothers Chris and Julian Washburn had been illegally recruited to the school.
The NJSIAA ultimately found no evidence of illegal recruitment, but during the Washburn investigation Reilly videotaped the out-of-season workouts last October. Boyle later admitted to being present and involved in the workouts before numerous Division I coaches, including Kentucky’s John Calipari.
Marino said allowing St. Patrick into the state tournament wasn’t the primary motivation for the lawsuit, but that was clearly the most immediate concern because the tournament starts Tuesday.
At one point during his presentation, Marino said that Monday’s Star-Ledger featured a preview of all the top players in the state tournament, adding, “You know who isn’t listed there? Michael Gilchrist isn’t listed there and he could be a National Basketball Association lottery pick. Kyrie Irving isn’t listed there and he’s going to Duke to play point for Mike Krzyzewski.”
“We have enormous respect for Judge Cavanaugh and we’re disappointed in the decision, but we will proceed in our lawsuit,” Marino said after the ruling. “It’s unfortunate that the team will not be permitted to compete in the state tournament but my expectation is that at the conclusion of this litigation there will be substantial changes within the NJSIAA. That’s what we’re hopeful of.”
Mike Herbert, attorney for the NJSIAA, maintained that St. Patrick violated NJSIAA rules related to out-of-season coaching and that Boyle admitted as much.
As for the private investigator, he said Reilly was an “arm of St. Patrick’s and 433 other schools. He’s doing the work of the NJSIAA.”
Herbert summed up his speech by saying he was speaking on behalf of the 433 NJSIAA members who do play by the rules.
“I’m speaking on behalf of 433 schools who are saying, “We’ve got these rules. We’re going to try to abide by them and we need somebody to enforce them,'” he told the court.
Speaking after the hearing, Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA, said: “The final decision of the Controversies Committee and the Executive Committee was upheld today. I also felt that the NJSIAA did not violate any constitutional rights.
“We’re very sorry that anybody is taken out of our championships but we do have rules and regulations and it’s the expectation that the rules and regulations have to be followed.”
(Photo courtesy Star-Ledger)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.